Bird loses cool, Seattle loses Game 1
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- The final buzzer wouldn't sound for another couple seconds, but Sue Bird had had enough.
But before Bird released the ball, a Sun defender closed quickly. Bird collapsed to the ground, wide-eyed and expecting a whistle that never came. And as Connecticut wrestled for the ball until the buzzer sounded a moment later, Bird -- a player who typically won't quit until the opponent has left the arena -- remained motionless except for a frustrated shake of her head.
Bird, who dished out a playoff-record 14 assists Tuesday after undergoing nose surgery a day earlier, finished with four assists and 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting from the field as the Storm fell behind 0-1 in the WNBA Finals. Despite playing in foul trouble for most of the game, Bird played 32 minutes, but she also committed six of the Storm's 17 turnovers in the Sun's 68-64 victory.
"I'm disappointed in myself because I have been in a lot of big games before," Bird said. "I didn't stay as even-keel as I needed to for some of the other players that haven't been through this before."
Bird's demeanor during the game was more telling than her stats. The calm, cool floor leader who already has two NCAA titles on her résumé was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the normally laid-back guard was as animated as she has ever been and hadn't seemed this frustrated since her Connecticut Huskies lost to Notre Dame three years ago in the Final Four.
Bird, in fact, never found her rhythm, seemed tired and struggled from the opening whistle. Less than a minute into the game, her entry pass was stolen for Seattle's first turnover. That turned into a trend for the Storm, who continuously saw their passes deflected -- or stolen -- by the Sun, who set a single-game WNBA Finals record with 15 steals.
"It starts with Sue," Seattle coach Anne Donovan said. "Sue has to keep her composure for everyone else behind her to do that. And I don't think we did a good job of that."
Connecticut keyed on Bird from the start. The Sun's Katie Douglas and Jess Brungo played full-court defense on Bird for most of the game.
"That might not have slowed down Bird early on, but Bird seemed fatigued with five or six minutes to play," ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman said.
And she was frustrated throughout.
After drawing her second foul 5:14 in, Bird shook her head in disbelief at the ref. Ten minutes later, Bird glared at Sheri Sam when her Storm teammate failed to find her on an inbounds pass and then appeared disgusted when Seattle turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation seconds later.
After another 60 seconds, Bird was slapping the court with an open hand after turning over the ball for the Storm's ninth giveaway of the half. And with 30 seconds left in the game, Bird simply crouched at midcourt, repeatedly jamming down her fist on the Sun's blazing logo after drawing her fifth foul.
When she arrived at the postgame news conference minutes later, Bird didn't bother mincing words.
"We were bad," she said. "That's my opening statement."
Now, the Storm have to hope for something better in Game 2 as the finals shift to Seattle on Sunday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET).
Melanie Jackson coordinates ESPN.com's WNBA coverage.
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